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    How to buy a new-build property in France

    Reserving an off-plan or new-build property in France

    For the majority of our clients, buying a property in the French Alps is a new venture. If you decided to buy a French property with Erna Low Property, you can be confident that our in-house advisors in London, along with our wealth of English-speaking contacts in France, will be on hand to guide you through each step of the process.

    Buying off-plan is a very popular way of purchasing a property in France – investors are offered a number of incentives for doing so, including reduced legal (Notary) fees and land tax exemptions. The system in France for the reservation of and off-plan property is one of the most secure in the world and investors are protected in a number of different ways.

    As the buyer will be reserving a property before it is built, there may also be the potential to amend floor plans and layouts to suit their requirements.


    A step-by-step guide to buying an off-plan French property

    Step by step guide to buying off-plan property in France


    A deposit is key

    When a buyer has decided on their French property of choice, following the advice and assistance from our experts, a deposit will be payable to officially remove the property from the market. The deposit will generally be between 2% and 5% of the purchase price, and must be transferred to the Escrow account of the developers Notaire. Notaires are public officials, so the buyer can be confident that their deposit is secure throughout the purchase process.

    The full amount of the deposit is refundable until later in the purchase process.


    Employing the services of a notaire

    More often than not, our buyers will work with a separate Notaire to that of the developer. We recommended an excellent English-speaking Notaire to all of our clients. By having a Notaire assisting you with the process, in your own language, you can be confident that you are being guided through the purchase in a way that you will fully understand.

    As a public officer, the Notaires’ role is to ensure that the purchase of the property is legal and above board with no affiliation to either the buyer or the seller. The Notaire will assist you with the signature of the reservation contracts, will conduct all the relevant checks required and will help with the preparation and signature of the final deeds of sale.

    Please contact us for an introduction to our recommended Notaire.


    What do I need to sign?

    The “VEFA” (Vente en l’Etat Futur d’Achèvement) is the main contract used for the purchase of an off-plan property in France.
    At the same time as paying your deposit, we will need to gather a small amount of personal details from the buyers (full names, address, place of birth, passport etc.) which we will use to prepare the reservation contract (VEFA). This simple contract will include all the relevant information for the property (size, price, specification and latest expected time of completion) as well as the relevant information of the buyer noted above.

    The buyer will sign the reservation contact with the help of their Notaire and, once they are happy, return it to our office in London to be sent to France on their behalf.


    The 10 day ‘cooling off period’

    Once the buyer has signed and returned their reservation contracts, the developer will countersign the document. Following this, the file will be returned to the buyer. From the day that the countersigned contracts arrive with the buyer, a 10-day cooling off period will begin. These 10 days provide time for the buyer to reflect on the purchase and ensure they are happy to move forward. At the end of this period the deposit will become non-refundable* and the buyer agreeing to purchase the property specified in the contract.

    *A VEFA contract is always subject to mortgage approval, so if the buyer is unable to obtain a mortgage the deposit will once again become refundable.


    Signature of the final deeds

    Once the 10-day cooling off period has passed, the Notaires will carry out all the relevant property and land checks and begin the preparation of the final deeds of sale (Acte de Vente), which will make the buyer the official owner of the property.

    Our buyers outside of France will, more often than not, sign a power of attorney document in their country of residence to prevent them from having to travel to France in person. Signature of this power of attorney document must be witnessed by a French registered Notaire (there will be more where you live than you think!) and returned to France via the Foreign Office.

    Once the buyers’ Notaire receives the signed power of attorney, he can make an appointment to sign the deeds of sale with the developers Notaire.


    Payment in stages

    The payment of an off-plan property in France is made in stages alongside the construction schedule.  The payments are made as a percentage of the price of the property. As an example:

    2% deposit upon reservation
    18% upon beginning of construction
    15% upon completion of the foundations
    15% upon completion of ground floor
    20% once the building is water tight
    15% once the building is air tight
    5% when partition walls are started
    5% on completion of construction
    5% upon handover of the property



    Once all the above has been carried out and you have paid the stage payments in full, you will be the owner of a brand-new property in the French Alps!